Saying Supervisor Patrick Vecchio's policies were hurting the town's ability to attract new business, town Councilman Robert Creighton on Monday night officially announced he would try to unseat the 12-term incumbent.
Creighton, a Republican like Vecchio, said small business owners are put through the "horrors of hell" while seeking approvals from town agencies under Vecchio's administration. And residents must cut through red tape to build a simple shed, he said.
"I'm running because I reject the notion of Smithtown as the land of no," Creighton, 75, told about 200 people at a Republican fundraiser at the Elks Lodge in Smithtown. "The status quo must go."
After his announcement, Creighton was joined at the microphone by Suffolk Republican chairman John Jay LaValle, town GOP leader William Ellis and former Republican congressional candidate Randy Altschuler.
Vecchio, 82, who has led the town since 1978, announced recently he would seek a 13th term.
He has defended his policies, saying Smithtown has not cut services or laid off workers at a time when other Long Island towns are slashing programs.
Ellis, a long time Vecchio supporter, said Republicans "have to move forward." He said he told Vecchio, "He's operating in 2003, and worse yet on occasion, 1993."
Ellis called Creighton "our young, vigorous candidate."
Vecchio and Creighton will compete for the party's endorsement at a May convention, and possibly face each other in a September primary.
LaValle, a frequent critic of Vecchio, said the supervisor "has done some great things" but has failed to promote economic development.
"It's not about age," LaValle said. "You could be 137 years old, as long as you're open for new thought for innovation for the next generation. That's what you have to do."
Creighton, a former Suffolk police commissioner in his second term on the town board, said the town hasn't changed much since he moved to Kings Park in 1959. "Except now we have about 35 vacant stores in the town of Smithtown," he said.
He said he would "protect taxpayers," but refused to rule out raising taxes. "That's crazy. We will do everything we can . . . to hold taxes down," he said.
Creighton promised he would develop a town master plan and implement policies to improve infrastructure and repair roads.
"They're in the same economic times that we are," Creighton said. "But somehow they are thriving. We are going the wrong way. We have to do something about that."