Sheila Oliver, a native of Newark, NJ, attended the Newark Public School System, graduating from Weequahic High School.
She entered Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, and earned a Bachelor’s Degree, cum laude in Sociology, then obtained a Master of Science Degree from Columbia University in New York in Community Organization, Planning and Administration.
She began her career working in municipal government, serving as the Director of the Office of Youth Services and Special Projects for the City of Newark, within the Mayor’s Office of Employment and Training. She was responsible for developing strategic plans to prepare youth 14 – 21 for entry into post-secondary education and entry into the workforce, developing Requests for Proposals and funding employment and training organizations to deliver program services.
A decade later, Oliver became the Development Director for The Newark Literacy Campaign, while working at Caldwell College as the Coordinator of Career Guidance within the Educational Opportunity Fund Program. For several years, she worked on several college campuses, teaching classes in Achievement Motivation, Non-Profit Management, and Pre-College Preparation. During this time, Oliver served as a consultant to a variety of non-profit organizations to provide training in board and program development; grantsmanship and financial management, and spent several years as the Director of the Essex County Division of Community Action, an anti-poverty initiative established by the federal government.
In 1996, Oliver became an Essex County Freeholder, and served on the Board of Chosen Freeholders until 1999.
Assemblywoman Oliver has spent a significant number of years serving on the boards of voluntary non-profit organizations, including but not limited to East Orange General Hospital Board of Trustees; the United Way; the Newark Coalition for Neighborhoods; the East Orange Board of Education; the Newark Collaboration Group; the Rutgers-Newark Educational Opportunity Fund Advisory Council; the Global Women’s Leadership Collaborative of NJ; the Essex County and East Orange Committees on the Status of Women; Programs for Parents; and a number of other community-based entities. She has held membership in the Women’s Political Caucus of NJ, the NAACP and the Urban League.
Oliver was elected to the NJ General Assembly in 2003 and began to serve her first term in 2004, representing District 34, which currently includes East Orange, Orange, Montclair and Clifton. The district previously contained Glen Ridge and Woodland Park. During her tenure in the General Assembly, she has chaired the Human Services Committee, and served on the Labor, Higher Education, Women and Children; Commerce and Economic Development; and Transportation and Independent Authorities committees.
She also serves on the Joint Committee on the Public Schools and the Economic Justice and Equal Employment Opportunity.
In 2010, the Assemblywoman became the Speaker of the General Assembly, and served as Speaker until 2014. She became only the second woman in New Jersey’s 300 year history to serve as Speaker, and the second African-American woman in the United States to lead a legislative house, following Congresswoman Karen Bass, who served as Speaker in California.
During her tenure as Speaker, she was active in the National Speakers Association, the State Legislative Leaders Conference, the National Conference of State Legislatures, and Women In Government.
Assemblywoman Oliver has resided in the City of East Orange for over 40 years.