To say that Elaine Miller is a dynamo is an understatement. Most people know her as a long-time real estate agent on this Island, but that’s only one part of her story. From her days as an entrepreneur starting small businesses (including Mrs. Miller’s Muffin Shops) to her roles today with the town of Tisbury and the Coalition to Create the MV Housing Bank, Elaine has been in the ring for most of her 85 years. And she has no intention of conceding her active life any time soon.

Q. Where did you grow up?

A. I grew up in Worcester, Mass.

Q. Did you get to college?

A. My dad was a foundry worker. He did not really understand women’s rights and needs, and when I got a scholarship to Boston University, my dad felt it wasn’t necessary for me and he would not fund my housing. I know that sounds like a terrible thing, but don’t forget, it was a long, long time ago and was just a sign of those times.

Q. What did you do instead?

A. I went to work, first in a law firm and then for the housing authority, and I married young to a professor at Bentley University [in Waltham, Mass.]. I did my college studies there, part time, while raising three children. I have a two-year degree but not a full degree.

Q. What did you do for work?

A . Many things. My husband and I moved to Scituate and I owned and ran an inn there with a four-star restaurant, and I had a clothing and gift shop in Cohasset. We sold those in 1979. And after 25 years, our marriage wasn’t really working so we then went our separate ways.

Q. And then?

A. I worked at Johnson and Wales University [in Providence, R.I.] as Director of Special Functions, managing a team of chefs for gastronomic dinners to honor visiting chefs. Then I ran the Culinary Arts Programs for Newbury Junior College in Brookline.

Q. How would you have described yourself at that time?

A. I use the expression “stubborn and stupid!” I walked into so many of these things with no idea that I was way in over my head. I just stepped into them. And I learned. Each one of these things broadened me and gave me more patience, more acceptance, and opened my eyes to all that needed help out there.

Q. How did you get to the Vineyard?

A. In 1982, Howard Miller entered my life and he had connections here, family members here. We lived in Newburyport after we married and we would sail here. And soon we bought a house here. But we kept an apartment in Boston because Howard was very busy with his law practice there. I started Mrs. Miller’s Muffin Shops soon after with shops in Boston, Harvard Square and Edgartown.

Q. So when did real estate begin?

A. Around 1985, I started looking around to see what my next career would be and I thought, “Well, let me try selling real estate on the Island. I started with Harborside and after a couple of years moved to Sandpiper Realty and spent most of my career there.

Q. Were you also active in the community?

A. When you’re selling real estate, it’s a 24/7 job. I was slightly involved in church issues, I was involved in Martha's Vineyard Community Services and the Possible Dreams Auction, but I really didn’t get very, very involved. But I whined and complained about processes that were not working very well and poor Howard had to listen to me.

Q. When did that change?

A. My daughter joined me at Sandpiper in 2012 and during the next few years, as I was kind of phasing out of it, I had some quiet time to focus and I thought, I really have to stop complaining, roll up my sleeves and see if I can get engaged.

Q. How do you decide which issues and organizations to support?

A. Obviously housing is the first and that’s because of my real estate experience. When you’re a real estate agent, you unfortunately get to see the housing conditions on the Island more than you’d want to. It’s just very hard not to recognize how unacceptable our housing conditions are. It’s something I am very passionate about because I see the pain out there.

Q. So you’re involved in getting the housing bank legislation passed?

A. When John Abrams and Doug Ruskin asked me to be on the steering committee for the housing bank effort [the Coalition to Create the MV Housing Bank], I said, “Absolutely!” There is so much work going on to try to make this happen because the alternative is not acceptable. People we depend on for all kinds of services are not going to be able to live here.

Q. What else are you involved in?

A. Tisbury, where I live now, is facing so many issues. I am on the planning board with five people who are diligently rolling up their sleeves and doing an incredible job. Everyone I work with is a volunteer. I don’t think people appreciate how much time volunteers give to our communities. And there is so much to do. I think my principal work on the planning board is probably my top priority right now.

I am also on the board of the VTA, representing Tisbury. I stepped in there at the time of the strike and we had a lot of work to do to get that resolved.

I’m also representing Tisbury on the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank.

Q. Busy! What do you think is special about this Island that makes you willing to put in the time?

A. I think it’s just the sincerity of the people and their commitment to the quality of life here. But there is so much we need to do because we have been such a sleepy community for such a long time.

Q. Do you wish we had a regional government?

A. The character of each one of the towns is part of the attraction here, but we don’t work well together; that is unfortunate. We have issues we need to share and resolve.

Paula Lyons is a former television consumer journalist living in Vineyard Haven.