Remembering Sheila Oliver
By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
08/14/2023 06:55 AM EDT
Good Monday morning!
New Jersey just wrapped up a three-day “celebration of life” for the late Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, who died earlier this month at age 71. It was a historic affair that drew thousands to the Statehouse, Essex County courthouse and the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Oliver’s hometown of Newark.
As NJ Advance Media’s Brent Johnson notes in his poignant dispatch from Oliver lying in state on Thursday, Oliver was the first elected official in the state’s executive branch to die in office since William Livingston, New Jersey’s first governor, in 1790. And the people I spoke to at the Statehouse who waited to pay their respects to her said the multi-day, traveling farewell to Oliver was a fitting tribute to a history-making public figure.
Oliver’s send-off culminated in a four-hour funeral service in Newark, which you can read about here.
There’s nothing more I can add that hasn’t already been said about Oliver. So I’m turning over a good amount of space in today’s Playbook to memories of Oliver from those who knew her well. Thanks to all who answered POLITICO’s request for stories.
Former Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts, Oliver’s immediate predecessor: “Sheila and I shared the same birthday (the exact same day, July 14, 1952). Until this year we would always connect with each other by phone or text to celebrate the day. I will miss that and I will miss my friend greatly.”
Kevin Drennan, executive director of the Senate when Oliver was speaker and lieutenant governor: “She was a very caring person … During the first budget negotiations of the Murphy administration, she was concerned about my stress level. She gave me a card that simply said, ‘Breathe In, Breathe Out, Repeat.’ I have carried it ever since.”
Gina LaPlaca, former staffer at Office of Legislative Services and Assembly majority office: “My first experience with Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver was when she was still Assemblywoman Oliver and a member of the Assembly Labor Committee. As a brand-new OLS staffer, I was sitting in on a hearing to discuss an increase in the minimum wage. Following a callous comment by one of her fellow committee members that lower-wage workers are merely “paid what theyʼre worth,” Sheila launched into a powerful, spontaneous speech about the value and dignity of labor and how all work is to be honored and sufficiently compensated so as to provide a decent life for those who labor, regardless of skill. I was impressed by her then, and on every other day I had the privilege to know her and work with her.”
Brigid Harrison, Montclair State University: “In 2017 we found ourselves side by side at Montclair State University in make-up chairs getting ready for the lieutenant governor debate. I was astounded to find her nervous. … I figured that she has been in public life so long that this would not be that stressful. After I reassured her, she [started] asking about my children and we spent the remainder of our time talking about my children and her extended family. I didn’t realize until that time that she had no children, but I walked away from the conversation with the sense that she wanted to focus on something real and meaningful to distract her from all of the tensions of the debate and campaign.”
Alexander Krasutsky, a Murphy aide involved in Atlantic City revitalization: “One memory that I will cherish for the rest of my life came out of a meeting … concerning an incredibly nuanced and complicated issue that had arisen in the city. … [I] had been struggling to have my voice break through on this particular issue due to the complex nature of what we were dealing with. At a certain point in the meeting I asked to give my perspective and not only did the LG listen to what I had to say, she recognized the passion and care that I have for New Jersey’s Flagship city. She validated my viewpoint not just through praise, but more importantly, by engaging me as someone with a valuable and experienced perspective. Ultimately, she engaged with me as a partner in a political ecosystem that she had far more experience with (and authority within) than I ever did.”
PROGRAMMING NOTE: Matt’s off most of this week playing with kittens. Ry Rivard and I will be punning it up until he returns for Friday’s edition.
TIPS? FEEDBACK? Email me at [email protected]
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Not in America. This is not something that you do here.” — Marion County Record publisher Eric Meyer after the Marion police department raided the newspaper’s office and his home in Kansas, seizing computers and files. His 98-year-old mother died one day later after the “shock and grief.”
WHERE’S MURPHY?: No public schedule
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Democrats are defending two governorships in Kentucky and Louisiana, and working to flip a Republican-held governorship in Mississippi. All three states may be geographically and politically distant from New Jersey, but Murphy’s perch at the DGA makes him an important player in the effort to win the three deep-red states.”
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SAUDI ARABIA OPENING AN EMBASSY IN EATONTOWN — “Details Of Eatontown’s Tax Deal With Kushner Cos. Over Monmouth Mall,” by Patch.com’s Carly Baldwin: “Earlier this week, Patch reported the borough of Eatontown will offer a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) tax exemption to developer Kushner Cos. for Monmouth Mall. Mayor Anthony Talerico says the tax exemption is necessary to allow Kushner to tear down huge parts of the mall and turn it into luxury apartments.”
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AMERICAN NIGHTMARE — ”Workers rally for safer conditions and more affordable health care at American Dream,” by NorthJersey.com’s Gene Meyers: “They called for better working conditions and demanded respect. Employees of House Services of America Cleaning Inc., which is responsible for maintenance and cleaning at the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, waved signs that read “Strike Against HSA Cleaning” and cheered each other on, with the mall as their backdrop. Anna Maria Hill is the New Jersey janitorial director for the 32BJ SEIU local.”
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