Board Members and Staff

Tamara Rabenold, Board Chair
Governor’s Appointee -Expires June 30, 2025
Industry Member
Committees: Emerging Technology, Finance, Grievance

Leading a team of investigators, Tamara Rabenold is CEO and owner of Vaudra International, which provides intellectual property investigations and brand protection solutions for global brands, corporations and law firms. 

Transitioning from a marketing background, she entered the investigative profession full-time in 2004, as a Private Investigator Associate (PIA) at Vaudra. After obtaining her full license, she sponsored multiple PIAs as her role evolved within the company. She is active in the Intellectual Property community, volunteering with the International Trademark Association (INTA) & conducting presentations on industry best practices. 

In 2019, she was appointed to this Board by Governor Roy Cooper. Beyond her service on standing committees, she acted as Chair of the Digital Forensics Examination (DFE) Subcommittee, which developed the administrative rules for this new license category. She also represents PPSB as a member of the International Association of Security & Investigative Regulators (IASIR). 

Prior to her appointment, she served on the non-profit North Carolina Association of Private Investigators’ Board of Directors (NCAPI), including a term as President in 2018. Tamara resides in Huntersville, N.C., with her husband, Randy, also a licensed investigator, two Chihuahua-mix rescues, a couple Pygmy goats and a cat.

Steve Johnson, Board Vice-Chairperson
Secretary of Public Safety’s Appointee - No expiration
Public Member
Committees: Laws and Rules (Chairperson), Grievance, Training and Education

Steve Johnson is a certified law enforcement officer and criminal justice instructor and has since 2006 worked with the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association as a part-time employee assisting with the coordination of many of the Association’s training programs and special projects, including the Association’s annual conferences and seasonal meetings. 

Prior to joining the staff of the Association, Steve spent 34 years with the North Carolina Department of Justice, with 29 of those years at the North Carolina Justice Academy, where he worked as the lead instructor for all the firearms programs offered by the Academy, including Specialized Firearms Instructor Training, Law Enforcement Sniper Course, Firearms for Female Officers, Armed Security Instructor Training, Concealed Carry Instructor Training and a multitude of armorer courses. 

Steve served in the North Carolina National Guard for 35 years as a range instructor and a member of the N.C. National Guard’s rifle and pistol teams.  

Steve is one of the co-authors of the N.C. Concealed Carry Handgun Training Model Program and is a certified Concealed Carry Handgun instructor. In addition, he previously served (2009-2021) as a member of the North Carolina Criminal Justice Training and Standards Commission. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors, where he was the Association’s president from 2000 to 2016 and is currently the 2nd Vice President.  He continues to teach the Law Enforcement Sniper Course for Durham Technical College as well as other firearms-related programs for Team One Network. His duties as an instructor have taken him around the world to countries including Germany, Italy and China. 

Stacy Buff
Senate President Pro Tempore’s Appointee - Expires June 30, 2025
Public Member
Committees: Emerging Technology (Chairperson), Screening, Training and Education

Stacy currently serves as the Vice President for Workforce Development at McDowell Technical Community College. Stacy’s first entered the security industry in 1991 when he worked as a registered armed security guard with Griffith Security in Hickory, N.C. 

In 1993, he began his law enforcement career at Morganton Public Safety. During his nearly 20-year career as a local and state law enforcement officer, he also worked for one year as an investigator for PPS from 2001-2002. 

In 2011, Stacy joined McDowell Technical Community College as Director of Law Enforcement Training and was later promoted to Dean, Associate Vice President and now in his current role as Vice President. Stacy holds an associate degree in criminal justice, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, a master’s degree in education, and an Education Specialist Certificate. Stacy is currently in his dissertation phase of his doctorate in education. Stacy resides in Marion, N.C., with his wife Amberlie, son Zayden, and daughter Brylie.

Ron Burris
Governor’s Appointee - Expires July 1, 2026
Public Member
Committees: Grievance (Chairperson)

Ron Burris is a retired Chief District Court Judge and Resident Superior Court Judge from North Carolina’s 20th Judicial District. He also worked previously as general counsel for Stanly Regional Medical Center. 

Burris remains a practicing attorney in Stanly County, N.C. One client he is proud to be associated with is GHAAS, a nonprofit providing support services for individuals with autism.

Debra Duncan, Board Ethics Liaison
Governor’s Appointee - Expires July 1, 2026
Public Member
Committees: Screening (Chair), Laws and Rules, Finance

Debra Duncan is currently the chief of police and security at High Point University. She began her career as a private detective associate and security guard. She began her law enforcement career as a company police officer and later served with the High Point Police Department 22 years. She was HPPD’s first woman to hold the rank of captain. In addition to her duties at HPPD, she worked part time at High Point University. She was appointed chief of police for Virginia Tech two months before 9/11.  

Debra returned to North Carolina as the police chief for the City of Monroe, where she served for seven years before retiring. She was later elected to Monroe’s City Council, where she was the mayor pro tem for the last two years of her 4-year term.  During that time, she enrolled in law school and served as the interim chief of Johnson C. Smith University.

Debra is a member in good standing of both the N.C. and Arizona State Bars. Debra created a stand-alone police department at Smith College in Massachusetts before returning to High Point to do the same. 

Richard Epley
Senate President Pro Tempore’s Appointee - Expires July 1, 2024
Public Member
Committees: Screening, Training and Education

Richard Epley, a native of Burke County, N.C., currently serves as the chief of police for Delta Company Police. He has more than 40 years of law enforcement experience and has owned and operated his company police and security guard businesses, Delta Company Police and Delta Protection Agency, respectively, for the last 25 years. 

Epley previously served as Burke County Sheriff before starting his own police and security business. He also currently serves on the N.C. Criminal Justice Training and Standards Commission.

Richard is a devoted husband who has been married for 45 years. He has three children, four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren and enjoys any free time he may have working on his farm and home.

Jerry Pitman
Speaker of the House’s Appointee - Expires July 1, 2025
Industry Member
Committees: Grievance, Laws and Rules

Jerry D. Pitman has served on the Private Protective Services Board since 2018 and is a licensed private investigator, security guard and patrol company operator, and he holds a close personal protection endorsement. He is the owner Pitman Security Services and J.D. Pitman Detective Agency, LLC. 

Prior to entering the private protective services industry, Jerry served for 30 years with the Winston-Salem Police Department, where he retired at the rank of lieutenant. Pitman also served in the U.S. Air Force from 1970 to 1974, where he worked as a policeman and achieved the rank of staff sergeant.  

Jerry was awarded The Order of the Long Leaf Pine by Governor Pat McCrory in 2014. He also previously served on the National Council of Investigators and Security Services’ Board of Directors from 2014 to 2016, and as a registered lobbyist of the N.C. Association of Private Investigators. 

Sam Russell
Governor’s Appointee - Expires July 1, 2024
Industry Member
Committees: Finance (Chair), Screening, Laws and Rules, Training and Education

Sam Russell is a U.S. Navy veteran and career police officer. He previously worked with the Salisbury Police Department for 21 years, where he obtained the rank of Detective Sergeant; and in 2004 Sam became the Assistance Chief of Police for the Town of Elon Police Department. He retired from the Elon Police Department in 2008. 

Sam obtained his private investigator license in November 2017 and now operates his own investigative agency, Russell Investigative Services, LLC, in Statesville, N.C. 

He was appointed to the PPSB by Governor Roy Cooper in 2019.

Andy Renfrow
Speaker of the House’s Appointee -Expires July 1, 2025
Industry Member
Committees: Training and Education, Laws and Rules, Emerging Technology

Andy Renfrow is the president and CEO of The Renfrow Group, Inc. He was born in Wake County, N.C., and raised in Wilson County N.C. Renfrow is a licensed private investigator, holds a security guard and patrol license, and has served in the U.S. Army for 19 years. His time in the U.S. military and private protective services industry has allowed him to work with federal law enforcement authorities, diplomatic protective services, and become experienced in consulting and investigations. Renfrow has a passion for supporting the private protective services industry in N.C., U.S. military members and veterans, and local ministries that focus on outreach to children. He resides in Apex, N.C., with his wife Sandi and children Haley, Savannah, Braxton and Tyler. 

Dave Stephens
Senate President Pro Tempore’s Appointee -Expires June 30, 2025
Industry Member
Committees: Screening, Training and Education (Chair), Screening

Dave is a private investigator and senior consultant with the US ISS Agency, LLC. (ISS), a private investigation firm in Huntersville, N.C. He has been a licensed PI in North Carolina since 2010. His expertise is in personnel investigations, especially governmental and police internal investigations. Dave retired after 30 years of service with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, retiring as the deputy chief of the 1,200-officer Field Services Division. 

Dave holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He completed the Senior Management Institute for Police in Boston, and the Administrative Officer’s Management Program at N.C. State University.  He has also served as a board member of the North Carolina and the National Association of Internal Affairs Investigators.

Suzanne Creech

Suzanne Creech
Speaker of the House’s Appointee - Expires July 1, 2026
Industry Member
Committees: Grievance

Suzanne C. Creech, the owner of N.C. Premier Investigations in Greenville, N.C., has served in the private investigation industry for more than 18 years. She served on the North Carolina Association of Private Investigators’ Board of Directors for 13 years, before being appointed to the NC Private Protective Services Board. Suzanne is a proud U.S. Army veteran who continues to serve the veterans in her community. Prior to her private investigations career, Suzanne worked as a police officer and emergency medical technician. 

Candace Ratliff
Governor’s Appointee – Expires July 1, 2026
Industry Member
Committees: Grievance, Training & Education, Emerging Technology

Candace Ratliff is a proud native of Charlotte, N.C. She is one of the owners, chief operating officer, and license holder for Professional Security Services. She has worked in the security industry for more than 10 years in both North Carolina and South Carolina. She graduated from UNC Wilmington with a degree in International Business with a minor in French. She is also a graduate of the Small Business Administration Emerging Leaders program.
Assata Buffaloe
Governor’s Appointee -Expires June 30, 2025
Public Member
Committees: Screening, Laws and Rules
Kim Heffney
Governor’s Appointee - Expires June 30, 2025
Public Member
Committees: Screening, Laws and Rules, Finance


Private Protective Services Staff Roster and Contact Information