Every city and town has individuals who stand out because of their dedicated service to the community. In Cortez, Chief Roy Lane is one of those people. Roy is retiring after years of service to this community, so this column is dedicated to him.
Roy’s father, Charles Welch Lane, was a deputy sheriff in San Juan County and later Navajo County, New Mexico. At 75, he succumbed to injuries sustained while searching for a lost child.
At 21, Roy began his own law enforcement career in Winslow, Arizona. By 30, he was chief of police for Holbrook, Arizona. In 1981, he began his tenure as Cortez chief of police; with his retirement, he will have served the citizens of this community for more than 38 years. He’s raised three daughters and a son in Cortez and is the proud grandfather of 10.
Roy has been a leader, friend and advocate, and a beacon of light when Officer Dale Claxton was violently slain in 1998, the only officer in the history of the department to die in the line of duty. While comforting Claxton’s widow and family, he led a grieving department through dark days and helped head one of the largest manhunts in history, which did not end until the remains of the last fugitive were discovered 15 years later.
In 2003, Roy received the Model of Character Quality of Justice Award from his department. He was named Cortez Citizen of the Year in 2007, and got the Charles K. “Pat” Steele Award in 2016 “for long-term professional and ethical contributions to law enforcement and to the people of Colorado.”
His contributions extend far beyond leading the police department. He, along with MB McAfee, was part of the task force that conceived of and was instrumental in getting The Bridge Homeless Shelter up and operating. “I hold him in such high regard,” McAfee said, “because his officers always treated our clients with such respect and dignity, and I knew that was a reflection of Roy’s training.”
The end of an era is hard, even under the best of circumstances. As I visited with Roy’s colleagues, sometimes we both would choke up as they shared memories of Roy. One staff member who began working for Roy at 19 said, “Roy was more than my boss; more than my friend; he was like a second father.”
In addition to exercising leadership skills on a daily basis, a good leader also serves as a mentor, training those under his command and helping them develop their own leadership skills.
Roy worked with staff to encourage excellence and promoted staff as they demonstrated their ability to take on more responsibility. Yet, he did not shy away from making difficult staff decisions when necessary.
Sheriff Steve Nowlin began his law enforcement career as one of Roy’s officers. “He helped me set my path and taught me what good leadership in a police department looks like,” Nowlin said. “He didn’t tell me what to do so much as ask me, what do you think you should do, as long as it’s the right thing? We’ve kept in touch throughout our careers, and it’s been so nice to be able to run things by him. We used to have breakfast together a couple of times a month, and I will miss that. Roy is an amazing man.”
At last Tuesday’s meeting, the Cortez City Council voted unanimously to name the municipal court located in City Hall the Roy Lane Municipal Court. Roy was too ill to attend the meeting, but his family, along with his second family, the Cortez Police Department staff, were on hand to honor this man and demonstrate their thanks and appreciation for the years of service he has given to this community. We shall not see his like again – but we are so fortunate that Roy chose to spend his life here, in Cortez, where his contributions made our community a better, safer place to live.
Thank you, Roy!
Karen Sheek is the mayor of Cortez, a position elected by Council members. Reach her at email@example.com or during her office hours from 12:30-1:30 p.m. the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month.