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John Zollo

John Zollo is looking to unseat Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio. Photo from John Zollo

A Smithtown political institution has a new challenger, as John Zollo announced he’s throwing his hat into the ring for the upcoming race for town supervisor, a position currently held by 39-year incumbent Pat Vecchio (R).

Zollo, a Smithtown resident, has spent his life on Long Island, and graduated from the Commack school district in 1977 — a year before Vecchio first took office. He has experience working in town government, serving as Smithtown town attorney for 12 years, from 1992 to 2002, and then from 2013 to 2014.

“I’m running because I believe some things need to change in Smithtown,” Zollo said in a phone interview. “And I have a big sense of community.”

The 57-year-old is certainly involved in many aspects of the town, serving as president for the Rotary Club of Smithtown Sunrise, a member of the Smithtown and Nesconset chambers of commerce, a committee member of  Smithtown Historical Society, and a board member of the Suffolk County Bar Association, to name a few. Zollo has also lent his voice to the community, singing the national anthem for several Long Island Ducks baseball games, and dozens of judicial robing ceremonies for newly sworn in judges on Long Island.

“I am involved in a lot of stuff, sometimes too much,” Zollo said with a laugh, adding he enjoys contributing to his community in any way he can.

And he has already planned to continue that trend into his campaign, asking for anyone who attended his first campaign event April 26 to donate whatever change they had for Red Nose Day.

Zollo said his main concern in Smithtown government is the lack of transparency and communication on issues, and both are important topics he’d like to address if given the chance to lead.

“I have learned a lot of people get very frustrated with government,” he said. “Too many people get involved with government for the wrong reasons. My wife says I’m Don Quixote riding the Smithtown bull. I believe you can’t just yell from the sidelines when you see something going wrong.”

One recent example of miscommunication Zollo used was the land deal that fell through with the Smithtown school district and Southern Land Company earlier this year. Many residents were unhappy with the plan to develop an apartment complex at the district administration building on New York Avenue, and the town and district seemed to be on different pages as the plan moved forward. By last month the deal had collapsed.

“There should’ve been more of a dialogue with the school, the residents and the town,” Zollo said. “If you have dialogue you get something that works, it doesn’t mean everyone will be happy but it’ll work.”

The candidate said he wants the town to have more work sessions with an agenda, and more conversations that happen in front of the town, so residents can understand the government’s train of thought when making decisions.

“You shouldn’t have to hide anything from people,” Zollo said. “People should know what’s going on in their government. The government right now is being run in secret, by emails, and there is no dialogue in work sessions, no exchange of ideas.”

Zollo said while Vecchio has served a great deal to his community, he believes it’s time for new blood to take over.