THE deputy mayor of Malton has died after a short illness.

Jason Fitzgerald-Smith, who was previously the town’s mayor, died at Malton Hospital today.

Mike Skehan, clerk to Malton Town Council, said it had been a shock to everyone.

“He had not been well since just before Christmas and after tests in York had come back to Malton Hospital where he sadly died,” he said.

Mr Skehan said he had known Jason for about nine years.

“I learned to really respect the amount of hard work and effort that he put into the town and also valued his friendship,” he said.

“We are going to miss all the work that Jason did without any sense of seeking anything for his own personal gain.”

Mr Fitzgerald-Smith moved to Malton in the late 1990s with his partner, Penny, after spending holidays in the town for 25 years.

He spent 27 years in the Army, before he transferred to NATO on the international staff.

On moving to Malton, Mr Fitzgerald-Smith became chairman of the Malton and Norton Initiative and joined the town council in 2003.

Mr Skehan said: “Jason attached himself to Malton and really loved the place. If it mattered to Malton, he was interested in it.

“He did a great deal for this town and on a personal basis he was known by a lot of people.

“Jason was always prepared to listen to people, which was a real credit to him. This is a big shock and he will be a big loss to this town.”

Fellow town councillor Denys Townsend said Mr Fitzgerald-Smith was a well-known figure in the town.

“He had such enthusiasm for everything to do with this town and his years here will be remembered for a long time,” he said. “This will be an incredible loss for Malton.”

Councillor Martin Dales 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, his long-term companion; he will be greatly missed.”