Gwinnett County tax commissioner dies of breast cancer at 43

Gwinnett County Tax Commissioner Tiffany P. Porter (Courtesy of Gwinnett County)

Gwinnett County Tax Commissioner Tiffany P. Porter (Courtesy of Gwinnett County)

Gwinnett County Tax Commissioner Tiffany Porter died Thursday of breast cancer, her office announced. She was 43.

Porter had four children: 23-year-old Brandon, 20-year-old Nia, 17-year-old Zoe and 15-year-old Tori. She was elected in 2020 as Gwinnett’s first Black tax commissioner but had recently been on medical leave.

Porter’s office said Chief Deputy Tax Commissioner Denise Mitchell will execute her duties for the remainder of her term, which ends Dec. 31, 2024.

“Ms. Porter overcame many obstacles to achieve the ambitious goals she set for herself,” Mitchell said in a statement. “I will always remember her as a strong, resilient, brilliant spirit, and all the joy she brought to us. We will miss her.”

Porter was the first person in her family to obtain a college degree, let alone a law degree and pass the bar, according to a news release from her office. She earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in vocal music performance from Hampton University, a master’s of business administration from Georgia State University and a juris doctorate from Emory University.

She told the magazine VoyageATL in 2019 that she was from New Jersey. Her grandmother and great-grandmother raised her due to her mother’s incarceration, she said.

“I am the oldest of five and had to grow up very quickly to assist with my younger siblings,” Porter said.

She had her first child in college and two small children by the time she got a scholarship to Emory University School of Law, which she attended simultaneously with Georgia State. She was president of the Black Law Students Association at Emory and clerked for state Supreme Court Justice Robert Benham.

By the time she had completed law school, Porter was divorced with four children under the age of 8, she told VoyageATL.

Gwinnett Superior Court Judge Tadia Whitner said she moved to Gwinnett in 2009 and Porter saw her in the courthouse soon after, looking “lost and terrified.” Although Whitner didn’t want to make friends, Porter was determined. They became best friends and law partners.

Whitner described Porter as a meticulous worker. After Whitner became a juvenile court judge, she hired Porter as her judicial assistant.

“The world is one light dimmer today,” Whitner tearfully told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “She was so brave. ...Anything she put her mind to, she did it. That’s how I’m going to start living my life. I’m going to stop being afraid to do things, because of Tiffany.”

From left, Tiffany Porter and Tadia Whitner at a Kentucky Derby party.

Credit: Contributed

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Credit: Contributed

Porter was first diagnosed with breast cancer at age 29. By her 2020 campaign, she said, she had beat the disease twice.

Porter was an Atlanta Chiefs semi-professional football cheerleader. She became a certified National Football League agent and founded Zenith Sports and Entertainment Group.

In 2019, she became the first Black judge in Duluth Municipal Court. She was a regular guest legal analyst on Court TV.

During 16 months as tax commissioner, her office said she improved services in a number of ways, including a more efficient appointment process.

“She also made workplace improvements for her 160-member staff, who appreciated her intelligent, fun-loving and decisive leadership,” the news release said.

She also drew criticism after instituting personal fees for collecting cities’ taxes, at one point proposing charges that would have nearly doubled her salary.

Porter lived in Gwinnett County for more than 20 years. She attended Life Church International in Duluth and was active in the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. She was famous for baking delicious sweet potato pies, according to a biographical sheet her office distributed.

Memorial service arrangements will be announced at a later date. The tax commissioner’s office will close on the day of her service.

Local elected officials, including all five Gwinnett County commissioners and State Sen. Nikki Merritt, D-Grayson, released condolence statements Thursday.

“My heart goes out to the family and friends of Tiffany Porter during this difficult time, particularly to her four children,” Merritt said. “No words are adequate. She was a trailblazer many times over throughout her life and had a passion for service to our Gwinnett community.”