It’s been a little more than a week and a half since Merced County District 5 Supervisor Jerry O’Banion underwent surgery for acute appendicitis, but he was in good spirits Monday and said he expects to return to work soon.
The 67-year-old was released from the hospital about a week ago and is home recuperating. O’Banion, who also serves as the board’s vice chairman, represents the West Side of the county including Dos Palos, Los Banos and Santa Nella.
O’Banion said he will see his doctor Wednesday to determine when he can return to work. “I am feeling pretty good, but I can’t come back to the office until the doctor releases me,” he said Monday, estimating his return to work will be within the next two weeks. “For now, I’m staying home with my wife and she’s doing a great job,” he added.
O’Banion was elected to the Merced County Board of Supervisors in 1991; he is the longest serving member of the current board.
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The second-longest member and board chairwoman, District 4 Supervisor Deidre Kelsey, said O’Banion is one of the most devoted elected officials she’s worked with. “I will tell you it’s very unusual for Jerry to be out of the office for anything other than an occasional vacation,” Kelsey said. “I know he is getting better and he’s a very dedicated public official.”
Kelsey said O’Banion’s absence could hamper reaching decisions on certain agenda items during board meetings; four out of five board members must agree in order to take action.
Resolutions usually involve large budgetary items, such as transferring money to and from county departments. “It complicates the agenda because oftentimes we have a four-fifths vote. So if one person is gone, his absence affects the potential for agenda items to go forward or not go forward,” Kelsey said. “It can affect the government process to a certain degree.”
County staff is taking steps to ensure agenda items that would strongly affect O’Banion’s district are not considered during his absence, Kelsey added. “We’re sensitive to the communities that he represents and the issues that they have,” she said, “and we want to make sure he is there to represent them when those items come up.”
O’Banion said being out of the office the past few weeks hasn’t affected his ability to communicate with his constituents or handle issues in his district.
“I’ve been continuing to get emails and have asked staff to take care of different things that come to my attention,” O’Banion said. “People can continue to email me or call me at the office or my home number.”