Gov. Phil Murphy’s literal first lieutenant has enjoyed a political ascendancy built on talent and hard work. That — and being in the prominent center of a new progressive movement in New Jersey — likely bodes continued big things down the road for her and those with whom she works.
Meantime, the office of lieutenant governor can be paired with a seat in the governor’s cabinet and for Oliver that’s the post of commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. That makes quite a powerful combo – having the ear of the state’s chief exec and a ready mechanism for spreading his progressive message to grassroot constituencies while pushing an array of choice projects.
The Essex County Democrat and former speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly is a Newark native and key officer in Murphy’s North Jersey inner circle. Expect her to march into battle for his causes early and often. But don’t paint her into any sort of ideological corner. This is a pol whose CV includes helping to launch the Newark Coalition for Low Income Housing and then in later years aiding a Republican governor in reining in public worker pensions and benefits.
Small wonder she managed to become the state’s second woman assembly speaker ever, its second African-American assembly speaker, and the second African-American woman to lead any state legislature in the U.S.