Smithtown is in trouble. Its problems have been years in the making. Its roads are deteriorating, its infrastructure is falling apart and its downtown is in decline. Four more years of stagnation and decay would be intolerable. So the question facing voters electing a town supervisor is simple: Who is best positioned to bring Smithtown back?

Republican Patrick Vecchio, 83, of Fort Salonga, has been supervisor for 35 years, the longest run in Long Island history. With that tenure, he also has ownership of Smithtown's problems. But he declines to take responsibility. He touts his tight control of town finances and record of keeping taxes, spending and indebtedness low, but makes excuses for conditions in the town. A street needs paving or traffic remediation? Vecchio responds it's a county or state road, there's nothing we can do. One obstacle to revitalizing downtown Smithtown and attracting new businesses is a lack of sewer capacity? Vecchio says it's a county issue, there's nothing we can do. The downtown looks dated and unattractive? Vecchio says we can't make private business owners improve their buildings.

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Effective leaders find ways to get things done -- cajoling through personal contacts, finding quid pro quos, or getting in other people's faces and staying there until something changes.

Democrat Steve Snair, 32, a foreclosure attorney from Nesconset, offers a contradictory platform of running an even leaner government while spending more on roads and infrastructure. His inexperience and limited ideas do not provide a reasonable alternative.

Vecchio's principal opponent is Conservative Robert Creighton, 76. The former county police commissioner from Kings Park, hardly fits the profile of a dynamic new leader. But in six years on the town board, Creighton has been a voice of frustration. He says he will work with the county on the sewer problem and say yes to prospective new businesses -- some willing to build their own sewage treatment plants -- that have been stymied by town government. He says taxes generated by new growth will let the town spend more on roads and infrastructure.

Creighton is not the person to bring Smithtown all the way out of this mess, but he understands the urgency and can be an effective bridge to a better future.

Newsday endorses Creighton.