Tributes have been paid to a former Mayor of Malton who passed away today following a short illness.
Colleagues of Jason Fitzgerald-Smith described him as man who was “devoted to Malton” from the moment he moved to the town with his long-term partner, Penny, following a distinguished 27-year career with the Army and an appointment with Nato.
His love of the area was born through regular summer visits to Malton and Norton where he would satisfy his passion for horse racing.
Mr Fitzgerald-Smith, who was born in Knaresborough, is perhaps best known locally for his work on Malton Town Council.
During his four year tenure as Mayor of Malton, he was a vociferous campaigner against proposals to build a supermarket on Wentworth Street Car Park, supported Malton Hospital, local retailers and farmers, and was also a leading light in the creation of the Malton and Norton Neighbourhood Plan.
His mission, as he saw it, was to keep “the integrity of Malton as a market town.”
His long army career served him well as a representative on the North Yorkshire Police Authority and, latterly, he showed his true grit by devoting countless hours to a close-fought but ultimately unsuccessful election bid to represent Malton as a North Yorkshire County Councillor.
His “boundless enthusiasm” as chairman of the Malton, Norton & District Branch of the Conservative Association also led to him organising many sold-out events which helped swell the coffers of the organisation.
At the time of his death, he was Deputy Mayor of Malton and a key figure in local politics.
Mike Skehan, Malton’s town clerk, admitted to being in shock at the loss of his friend.
“There were times in the early days of working together when he drove me wild but I learned to respect him and we became good friends,” he said. “He loved Malton and really did work hard for the town.
“He was as available as anyone I have ever seen and I enjoyed working with him. He will be a big loss to Malton.”
Cllr Denys Townsend, a colleague on Malton Town Council, added: “He was a man who did an awful lot for Malton in the time he has been living here, very enthusiastic and dedicated to everything he undertook.”
Cllr Martin Dales, who served as Mayor of Malton on two occasions, said: “I was very saddened to hear of the death of my good friend Jason Fitzgerald-Smith. In everything he was involved, he gave his all and particularly through his membership of Malton Town Council as well as the local Conservative Association.
“He loved Malton, shouted for the town when Mayor and generally tried to ensure the town remained the great place that it is. My condolences go to Penny Campbell-Adamson, hislong-term companion: he will be greatly missed.”
Cllr Paul Andrews described Mr Fitzgerald-Smith as a “good friend and a good political ally.”
“He led the town through a very difficult few years and I am really sorry to hear about his loss which will be felt by many.”
Steven Shaw, who stood as a Conservative candidate in the county council elections alongside Mr Fitzgerald-Smith, said: “It is a sad loss. Jason was a hard worker who had the town at his heart.
“He always put everything he had into any project he took on - we will miss him.”
And in a statement, Peter Steveney, chairman of Thirsk and Malton Conservatives, said: “It is with great sadness that we learn this morning of the death of Jason Fitzgerald-Smith.
“Jason has been a long-standing member of Thirsk and Malton Conservative Association and has worked loyally and tirelessly to support both the local and national Party.
“Latterly, he chaired the Malton, Norton & District Branch and raised funds with boundless enthusiasm – organizing events which were enjoyable, entertaining and usually a sell-out!
“Jason served the town of Malton as a Town Councillor and as Mayor for several years. He immersed himself fully in local affairs and continually gave vigorous support to the community.
“We send our deepest sympathy and condolences to his partner Penny and to his family and many friends.
“We will miss his views on life, his larger than life presence but most of all his support to this Association.”