Hitting the ground running: New Landis interim town manager is ready to get to work

Published 12:10 am Saturday, May 6, 2023

LANDIS — Newly-appointed Landis finance officer Michael Ambrose has effectively doubled down on his commitment to Landis, assuming the position of interim town manager on Monday following the former interim manager, Phil Conrad’s, departure.

Conrad was brought on at the end of 2022 to replace the outgoing town manager, Diane Seaford, and had been set to leave at the end of March but stayed an extra month.

Like Conrad, Ambrose will take over the role in an interim capacity while Landis continues its search for a full-time town manager.

Landis Alderman Darrel Overcash said Friday that the interview process for a full-time town manager had yielded four candidates which, after interviews, had narrowed to two. The consulting firm hired to assist with the hiring process, Narloch and Associates, had a list of additional candidates that Overcash said they might turn to if needed.

Ambrose was originally brought on in March when he became the head of the finance department. Right away, Ambrose began making an impact when he oversaw an audit of previous utility charges dating back several years and detected that nine customers had been overcharged since 2019.

In March, the city approved a budget amendment of $22,000 to correct the mistake and issue refunds.

“We did an internal audit of our records and found that nine of our customers had been overcharged since 2019,” Ambrose said. “The mistake was minuscule in our system. It would have been hard to detect without the audit.”

Ambrose indicated that an insistence on transparency drives him.

“It’s the citizens’ money,” Ambrose said. “I want to make sure that we are good stewards of that money … one of my biggest things is transparency. I want to be transparent with my citizens, staff and board.”

Having seen the inside track of the town’s finances, Ambrose feels primed to spearhead certain projects.

“I already know our position there, so when we get new projects going on around the town, I am able to blend into this pretty well,” Ambrose said.

He has already developed a familiarity with town employees and is looking to build on those relationships.

“Being in finance, I already have a relationship with all the employees,” Ambrose said. “I have been developing those relationships since I came, but this week, I have been meeting with my employees to let them know that I have their backs and am there for them. My employees are my biggest asset.”

Ambrose has only been with the town since March, but in that time, he has become acclimated to Landis, which is much like Easley, South Carolina, the small town where he grew up.

“Some things are near and dear to my heart,” Ambrose said. “I really love Landis. It is just like the small town where I came from. Everybody has been good to me here.”

Ambrose’s public safety background first caught Overcash’s attention, but his financial knowledge stands out the most.

“He is a financial whiz,” Overcash said. “He has experience in the police force and dabbled a bit on the fire side. He knows about those things and can speak their language.”

The town became familiar with Ambrose’s background when hiring him as finance director, a role he assumed when Chase Norwood left. Ambrose earned an accounting degree from Tri-County Technical College in Pendleton, South Carolina, while serving in law enforcement. He originally began as a member of the Easley Police Department in 2008. He is currently attending Anderson University and is on track to get a certified public accounting degree. He plans to pursue a master’s degree in public administration following that completion.

According to Overcash, beyond his skills and intelligence, Ambrose’ amiable personality ought to go a long way.

“I know he is a very personable, likable guy,” Overcash said.

He also indicated that Ambrose’s desire to be in Landis is readily apparent.

“He has a 50-minute commute, so you know he wants to be here,” Overcash said.

Ambrose’s first regularly-scheduled meeting as the interim town manager will be at town hall on Monday at 6 p.m.