New Jersey Lt. Gov. Passes Away Unexpectedly At 71

New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, a Democrat, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 71. At the time of her death, she was serving as acting governor in the absence of Gov. Phil Murphy, who is on a family vacation in Italy.

The news of her hospitalization on Monday for an undisclosed medical issue came as a surprise to many. Though her spokesperson mentioned she was receiving medical care, specific details were not disclosed as the cause of her death remains unknown.

In a heartfelt statement, her family expressed their profound sadness, referring to her as not just a distinguished public servant, but also a beloved family member and friend to many.

“It is with incredible sadness and a heavy heart that we announce the passing of the Honorable Sheila Y. Oliver, Lieutenant Governor of the State of New Jersey. She was not only a distinguished public servant but also our cherished daughter, sister, aunt, friend, and hero,” the statement read.

“Sheila Y. Oliver leaves behind a legacy of dedication, service, and inspiration. We will remember her commitment to the people of New Jersey and her tireless efforts to uplift the community. May her memory be a source of comfort and strength to all who knew her,” the statement read further.

Murphy also shared his grief, describing Oliver as a dear friend, colleague, and valuable partner in government. 

“She brought a unique and invaluable perspective to our public policy discourse and served as an inspiration to millions of women and girls everywhere, especially young women of color. Beyond all of that, she was an incredibly genuine and kind person whose friendship and partnership will be irreplaceable,” he stated.

To cover the void Oliver’s passing left in leadership, New Jersey state Senate President Nicholas Scutari, also a Democrat, has stepped in as acting governor. He will remain in power until Murphy’s return. 

While the governor was originally scheduled to return in mid-August, CBS News’ sources told the outlet that he plans to cut his vacation short and return to New Jersey earlier than planned.