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Justin Smiloff

Robert Murphy. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Robert Murphy (R) is the man with experience.

As interim highway superintendent for Smithtown, re-electing a candidate who has already gotten his feet wet — learning how the department operates and how best to allocate the budget — is in Smithtown’s best interest.

He’s proven to be the guy for the job, and can bring trust and confidence back following the communities concerns after former Highway Superintendent Glenn Jorgensen (R) resigned.

Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) noted receiving more complimentary calls at the beginning of this year — with the handling of two snowstorms — than any other year.

Murphy is a lifelong resident of Smithtown, minus a 12-year stay in Arizona, so he’s familiar with the area and has almost 25 years of experience in the engineering field. Prior to being named the deputy highway superintendent in 2012, he spent two years as a capital projects manager for Suffolk County.

He believes in supporting an uptick in worker morale, bringing in jobs and projects to workers that will leave them with a sense of pride, and we applaud his efforts.

While his challenger, Democrat Justin Smiloff, is young and enthusiastic, he does not have the same set of skills. He has his own advantages, including his age, with ideas to modernize and upgrade the department, but we think Murphy is the right choice.

Robert Murphy, left, looks to continue serving as Smithtown’s highway superintendent, while challenger Justin Smiloff, right, looks to replace him. Photos by Victoria Espinoza

Two candidates are vying to serve the unexpired term of former Smithtown Highway Superintendent Glenn Jorgensen (R), who resigned in October 2015 shortly before pleading guilty to felony and misdemeanor charges.

When the two candidates were interviewed together at the TBR News Media’s main office earlier this month, it seemed the battle lines were drawn according to age. Deputy Highway Supervisor Robert Murphy (R) has been the acting supervisor for almost a year, since the town board named him to replace Jorgensen. He is 53.

His Democratic challenger is lifelong Smithtown resident and attorney Justin Smiloff, who said he “doesn’t need the job, but wants it because he thinks he can make a difference.” In addition to a law degree, he has an undergraduate degree in accounting, which he said he would use to “see what I can do to get more for less.” He is 35.

Among the topics of contention was the restoration of free leaf bag distribution to residents. “The leaf bag program is beneficial to taxpayers,” Smiloff said, “and if cost is a problem, cuts should be made from other areas.”

Murphy said the last time leaf bags were distributed was 10 years ago, at a cost of $187,000.

“With the 2 percent cap Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) established, some services have had to be eliminated,” he said, adding he thinks the brown paper bags could be mulched with leaves and don’t serve their intended purpose if they’ve been sitting out in the rain.

Technology use in the Highway Department was also discussed. Smiloff said his youth is an advantage in that area. He wants to see a modern, user-friendly website and feels residents should be able to text message the department. In addition, he will look at technology used in other places. Murphy said he is already networking with other highway superintendents. The Town of Brookhaven’s Dan Losquadro (R) has shared information about geographic information system currently being used to identify potholes.

Another item of debate was the use of energy-efficient vehicles.

“If we reduce the cost for fuel, money could be used for more beneficial things to help residents,” Smiloff said. On this, Murphy was in agreement. However, with $800,000 a year you can buy only four trucks, he said, indicating it will take some time to achieve true energy efficiency.

Smiloff promises voters “a new day and a new start.”

“I would deliver for taxpayers in a manner they haven’t seen before,” he said. He believes a clean sweep is necessary for taxpayers’ peace of mind.

In contrast, Murphy said his experience is worth its weight in gold.

“I have over 30 years in the field — 20 years in the private sector and [about] 10 in public civil engineering — and I have been at the department for the last five years,” he said.

In the year he’s run the department, he said he’s seen where improvements need to be made. He noted that his morals and ethics have never been questioned, and he will make sure that everything is done legally.

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