VINALHAVEN — For Eric Gasperini, Vinalhaven is and always will be home.
The 27-year-old grew up on the southerly Fox Island and attended public school there as well. His parents came to Vinalhaven as a teacher and a scallop dragger.
“[My father] came to the island to pick up nets,” he said.
Gasperini acknowledged the wanderlust felt by some islanders, but is happy to be home. “When you’re growing up, a lot of times you think, man, I can’t wait to get off this island, there’s a whole world out there. You leave for a while and realize how great life is here and you want to come back,” he said.
Gasperini said of 15 students in his graduating class, 12 are still on Vinalhaven.
He left Vinalhaven in 2003 to attend the University of Maine in Orono. He completed all but two classes needed for a bachelor’s degree in history.
“I never had any concrete plans,” he said, though he considered becoming a teacher.
Towards the end of his time in Orono, Gasperini began spending the fall semester on Vinalhaven to go lobstering.
“By the end of my time in college I decided I was going to come back and haul for a while, at least for a little while. Regardless of whether or not I graduated I was planning on coming back,” he said.
Since his return to Vinalhaven, Gasperini has called an apartment on Main Street home. He lobsters and in winter works for his father, who is a caretaker.
“Right now I’m very content lobstering and very content on Vinalhaven,” he said.
Gasperini said although opportunities for socialization are minimal, he stays busy.
“There’s always something to do as long as you’re willing to look, I guess,” he said. “People get together, go to each others houses for barbecues, cookouts.”
Gasperini substitute-teaches at the Vinalhaven School and has made forays into town government, getting elected as selectman on June 11. Town clerk Darlene York said Gasperini is the youngest person she’s aware of to run for the board. He served on the town budget committee last winter.
“I think it’s important for young people to get involved with the town just because we have fresh ideas and a fresh perspective to what’s going,” Gasperini said.
He encourages others to participate in town government as well.
“If I were to hear complaints about how things are run, I usually tell them well, show up to a meeting and make your voice heard. Let people know what you think. Come to a selectmen’s meeting, that way it’s on the record and if you have a good point people will act on it,” he said.
Some of the challenges faced by Vinalhaven residents are year-round housing and the future of the lobstering industry, Gasperini said.
“If lobstering goes, we’ll become another Nantucket,” he said. “It’s a major worry.”
Gasperini said he plans to finish his degree in the future, but is firmly rooted on Vinalhaven.
“I have no immediate plans to leave the island. And no long-range plans have me leaving the island. Vinalhaven provides everything that you really need in life,” he said. “As long as you’re used to whatever negative there is about anyplace, there’s really no other place you’d want to live.”