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Twist in vote for deputy mayor as Jason Hamling remains on leave

September 5, 2023

Mayor Jason Hamling. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

By Peter Holmes

Health concerns for Orange mayor Jason Hamling will factor into the vote tonight (September 5, 2023) for deputy mayor at the Orange City Council meeting.

Hamling has been on leave since collapsing during the council meeting three weeks ago (August 15, 2023), and The Orange News Examiner has been told he has sent his apologies for tonight's meeting.

As councillors were discussing an agenda item about the Dolly Parton Imagination Library on August 15, Hamling slumped forward, his head coming a rest on his desk.

CEO David Waddell, staff and councillors rushed to Hamling's aid. In the chamber were councillors in the health field - GP Dr Steve Peterson, nurse Melanie McDonell and pharmacist Frances Kinghorne.

The YouTube feed to the broadcast was immediately cut and the video of the meeting taken down.

An ambulance was called and the mayor was transported to Orange Health Service, where he underwent a battery of tests.

CEO David Waddell (left) looks over at mayor Jason Hamling in the seconds before Hamling slumped forward.

Waddell released a statement at 7:50pm: "Orange mayor Jason Hamling fainted during [tonight's] council meeting. He regained consciousness a short time later and was treated by medical staff. The meeting was adjourned and will be rescheduled but the priority now is the mayor’s health."

The following day, August 16, 2023, council released another statement.

"Orange Mayor Jason Hamling is undergoing further tests in Orange Health Service today, after experiencing a medical episode at last night’s council meeting.

"Jason and his family wish to thank fellow councillors and council staff for their care and support during this time. He hopes to be home from hospital in time to watch the Matildas play in their historic World Cup semi-final."

Tony Mileto. Supplied.

On August 25, 2023 Orange City Council held an Extraordinary Meeting. Although that's its official title, it wasn't all that extraordinary, and had been convened to deal with a few matters that hadn't been sorted on the night Hamling collapsed.

The minutes originally showed Hamling as attending this meeting, however this was a production error. He had in fact sent his apologies.

Councillors remain in the dark as to when Hamling may return. Aside from sending good wishes, they are leaving him alone. As it should be in a health matter.

Orange's deputy mayor Gerald Power is running again tonight. Supplied.

However, he is their mayor, and some are wondering if tonight they're voting for a deputy mayor, or - if Hamling was to remain on leave, or stand down - an acting mayor, with all the extra burdens that entails, from running meetings to representing the city.

Hamling was popularly elected as mayor by the people of Orange, as were the councillors. After being elected to council by the voters, the deputy mayor is then selected by the councillors.

Because of this a deputy mayor can't simply step into the role of acting mayor, as they weren't popularly elected. The role of "acting mayor" must first be approved by the local government minister of the day.

Councillor Jeff Whitton with prime minister Anthony Albanese in August 2023. Facebook.

Current deputy mayor Gerald Power was elected in February 2022. He is widely liked and respected within the council chamber, and has wrangled meetings when Hamling has been away.

Tonight he faces two other candidates that are known (veteran councillors Jeff Whitton and Tony Mileto), although others may put their hand up.

Whitton has served as deputy mayor of Orange three times before - all under mayor John Davis - and believes his experience would stand him in good stead to undertake any required duties.

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