By Tom Groening
Emily Lane is an unassuming groundbreaker. But groundbreaker she is.
For years, Lane did seafood marketing on Vinalhaven, work she didn’t plan to make a career of, but living on an island, there it was. And in doing so, she earned respect in that male-dominated sector.
Now, on being elected as chairwoman of the Island Institute’s board of trustees, she is the first islander to hold the post.
Lane grew up in Wellesley, Mass., and earned a degree at the University of New Hampshire in English literature, with minors in history and speech therapy. Her ties to Maine include her mother, who was born in Woolwich, and her grandfather, who was the state Department of Agriculture’s chief inspector, ensuring that seafood and produce were safe to consume.
After graduating college in 1970, she began a career in education, and then settled in Vinalhaven to teach at the town’s school.
“I really fell in love with the community,” she remembers, “and over the years, I became very deeply involved.” She fell in love, too, with Tim Lane, whose ties to the island went back generations. His great,- great-grandfather had been a sea captain.
She took time off to raise their twin sons, but it wasn’t long before locals recognized in Lane what is readily apparent today—she’s smart, focused on doing the work, and unconcerned with getting credit. In short, a leader who could effectively advocate for the fishing community.
“I fell into the fish business. English lit majors had to be creative in what they did,” she jokes. “I probably wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now, if I lived on the mainland.”
She was recruited to serve on the board of directors of the island’s now-defunct Pen Bay Fish and Cold Storage business, and by the late 1980s, she had been pressed into service running the company.
In the early 1990s, Claw Islands Foods came to the island and Lane was recruited to be office manager and eventually became general manager, overseeing domestic and international sales. She continued to work in international sales until the company closed in 2010.
In 2006, she was asked to help manage the Vinalhaven Fisherman’s Co-op, and agreed. In 2010, she joined Calendar Islands Maine Lobster Company as vice-president of sales. And then, in January 2018, she joined the Luke’s Lobster Seafood Company team.
“I was impressed with Luke’s vertically integrated approach to the industry and his inclusion of fishermen,” she explains. “I was no stranger to the Holden family, as I had worked for Luke’s father, Jeff, for 10 years at Claw Island Foods.”
Lane first joined the Island Institute board after speaking with the organization’s president, Rob Snyder.
“I was impressed with Rob’s leadership style and his passion for sustaining Maine islands and the coast of Maine,” she says. “Under Rob, I think the Institute has continued to evolve into a first-class organization that is respected regionally, nationally, and internationally.”
Joe Higdon, who preceded Lane as board chairman, has high praise for her.
“As the first person to chair the trustees who lives on an island, she brings a lifetime of relevant experience. She is a great listener and knows how to bring people together,” he said. “The chair has never been in better hands. I look for even greater things from the Island Institute under her leadership.”
Lane has clear views on the challenges the coast and islands face: “Developing solutions to the impact of sea level rise and climate change, providing tools for diversification of local economies, and fostering community leadership through training and education” she says.
“As our coastal communities face an aging population and changes in traditional fisheries, it is imperative we encourage our young people to become actively involved in the development and implementation of viable solutions.”
Lane’s public service resumé also includes: four terms on the island town’s select board; stints on the town school board and planning board; service on lobster promotion groups, the state ferry advisory board, and a statewide board that oversaw community action agencies.