The city of Cortez has a new chief of police and a library director.
After months of having both jobs posted, the city announced May 18 that Vernon Knuckles will be taking over as police chief and Alicia Gomori-Lusker will soon be the new director of the Cortez Public Library.
Knuckles will fill the vacancy left by Roy Lane, who served as the city’s police chief for almost 40 years.
He joins the city from the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office.
“Chief Lane and Sheriff (Steve) Nowlin had a really good working relationship,” Knuckles told The Journal. “I see that relationship staying as strong as it ever was.”
Knuckles grew up in Egnar, and after graduating high school, he moved to Cortez. He has served many years for local law enforcement agencies, including the Cortez Police Department and Dolores County Sheriff’s Office, part of which was spent working for the 22nd Judicial District’s drug task force.
He holds a bachelor of arts degree in government from Grand Canyon University, served in the Utah National Guard for 35 years, and has earned a Bronze Star Medal, along with twice receiving the Army Achievement Medal.
For the last nine years, he has worked for the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office, serving as undersheriff since 2017.
One of Knuckles’ priorities is finding alternatives to traditional policing methods, especially since incarceration isn’t always effective, he said. He would like to involve the community in addressing crime, he said.
“It’s not just a policing problem, it’s a community problem,” he said. “And because it’s a community problem, I think the community needs to be involved in solutions. City Council, city manager, business owners. And try to foster those relationships with everybody in the community, and bring them on board to help come up with the solutions on how we address some of the problems that we face.”
Law enforcement has looked somewhat different lately in the new COVID-19 landscape, but Knuckles said he’s in favor of the processes currently in place limiting who can go in and out of the jail.
“I think the priority is making sure that the inmates that are already there are as safe as possible,” Knuckles said.
His first day on the job is June 22.
“We are excited to have someone with Vernon’s leadership skill set and experience as a law enforcement officer in our community,” City Manager John Dougherty said in a statement. “I look forward to working with him on the challenges and opportunities ahead.”
Gomori-Lusker will take over as director of the Cortez Public Library, filling the post left by Eric Ikenouye.
She joins Cortez from the Fountain Library, in the Pikes Peak Library District, where she served as library manager.
Prior to serving as library manager, Gomori-Lusker served as the senior children’s programming librarian in Fountain, which is southeast of Colorado Springs. She had been searching for a library director position, she said, and since her son is heading off to college in Pueblo, this seemed like a good time to make the move.
“It felt like a really great time to make some changes for myself and focus on some career goals,” Gomori-Lusker said.
She’s originally from Michigan, but has lived in Colorado since 2006. She holds a bachelor’s of arts degree and a teaching certificate from Grand Valley State University and a master’s degree in library and information science from San Jose State University.
As library director, Gomori-Lusker will oversee all library operations and associated outreach programs. She said that initially she wants to get to know the community, and figure out what Cortez residents want from their library, as she has done in her current position.
“I work a lot with the city, a lot with community partners,” she said. “I think outreach is very important. I view a library as the center of a community, maybe the heartbeat of the community.”
Both digital resources and books are incredibly important in a library, she said.
“I do think it’s important to have an equal balance, so that folks have that choice,” Gomori-Lusker said. “If they want digital resources, or to be able to come to the library for great programming, and just to talk to people.”
Her first day is June 29.
“I welcome Alicia to Cortez and am excited for the experience and skills she brings to our community,” Dougherty said. “She will be a great addition to our leadership team in helping our community moving forward.”