Barbara Thornton


Master, City Planning, Master, Business Administration

Barbara Thornton

Barbara brings a strong educational background and a passionate interest to issues facing municipalities today.

Barbara Thornton is a visionary entrepreneur with a solid skill set in initiating new projects, problem solving and facilitation.  She brings a rare combination of deep experience in city government, in internet technology and in business development to the newly emerging field of “civic tech”. She’s worked on projects with dozens of municipalities through the National League of Cities, the Mass. Municipal Association and USAID.  She was a pioneer in internet start-ups , founding an ecommerce company in 1997.  She’s worked closely with software developers to shape the code necessary to support business strategy.

She serves on the board of the Capital Planning Committee and chairs the Building Maintenance Committee for Arlington, MA, helping to launch the Town’s new Facilities Maintenance Department.

Her blog,  and  twitter account, @assetstewards report on civic tech, infrastructure, water, schools, public-private partnerships and related topics of concern to cities.  Her interests include projects which strengthen and nourish the important role local government plays in our society, in organizational change and in starting new business ventures.

Barbara earned an MBA from Harvard Business School and an MCP from Yale University, School of Art and Architecture.


  • Harvard Business School, MBA, 1995.
  • Yale School of Art & Architecture, Master of City Planning, 1972.
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Urban Studies & Planning, special studies,  1971-2.
  • University of California, Santa Cruz, BA, Urban Environmental Studies.  1969.



2013 to Present

ASSETSTEWARDSHIP.COM                                                                                                     CAMBRIDGE, MA


Provides information on municipal policy and planning around technology, infrastructure, capital acquisitions, finance, maintenance and public-private partnerships.


1997 to 2014

DESIGNERSHOES.COM                                                                                                   BOSTON, MA

Founder, President

Started first online women’s shoe company in USA.  Used five software platforms, including Magento’s open source software platform, writing applications to fit the corporation’s specific business strategy. Developed an international market using a variety of software tools.  Gained in depth e-commerce, digital and social media experience.



NEW YORK, NY,  Associate

Worked in municipal finance department with housing, health, infrastructure and corporate finance projects from proposal to pricing phases.


  • Analyzed and reported on major infrastructure finance issues including water quality state revolving funds, highway construction finance and government proposed changes in federal infrastructure financing policies.


  • Assessed large health maintenance organizations to predict merger/acquisition potential.
  • Coordinated proposal to underwrite financing for New York City bond issues.


ALEX & THORNTON ASSOCIATES                                                                                   BOSTON, MA


Founded and led consulting firm specializing in strategic planning and problem solving for senior level managers in public and private sector organizations.

International Trade and Development

  •  Facilitated agreements among government and private officials for opening Manila (Phillipines) Toll Road as sub-contractor with Louis Berger.
  •   Initiated imports of medical equipment and food products to Eastern Europe.
  •   Developed exports of textiles and handicrafts from Latin America to U.S.
  •   Assessed and recommended improvements for Philippine community health care system.

Project Finance

  • Assembled, including site control and financing, 35 unit condominium housing development in Boston.
  • Designed, won funding for and guided implementation of community wide health prevention and education strategy on behalf of City of Cambridge and the local hospital.
  • Prepared client benefits eligibility study, maximizing revenue for health care provider.

Social Policy

  • Ran national demonstration program through Cambridge Housing Authority to house and support homeless mothers and children.

Local Government

  • Managed multiple engagements working with police departments, public works, inspectional services, facility redesign, library services, and public health. Worked with managers of municipalities to analyze and improve operations.


1977 to 1980

MASSACHUSETTS MUNICIPAL ASSOCIATION                                                               BOSTON, MA

Director, Local Officials Human Services Council

Negotiated, on behalf of 351 municipalities, with major state government agencies, on program, policy and budget matters relating to Human Services, a budget represented over half the state’s total budget.


1972 to 1976

MASSACHUSETTS DEPARTMENT OF MENTAL HEALTH,                                         BOSTON, MA


Director of Planning

Coordinated facility, staffing and community services plans for over 7000 clients throughout the state.  Headed agency’s statewide planning effort for compliance with institutional and community program standards.  Created first program budget system used in state government, coordinated facilities improvement plans and initiated community based health services for $100 million state mental health and retardation facilities.


1968 to 1972

FORT GREENE COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT CORP.                                                 BROOKLYN, NY

Staff ,    War on Poverty Program

Member of team responsible for key issues involving the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corp., Ocean Hill-Brownsville School community control controversy, NYC Teacher’s strike and other neighborhood based anti-poverty programs.




Study:  Annexation vs Incorporation of Unincorporated Areas

A cost/ benefit analysis looking at costs of services to the county, municipality and taxpayer in each scenario.




Researched and mapped public access routes to coast, enabling public access to California beaches.




Member, Code for Boston Brigade (#HackforChange  #RhokBoston 2014) of Code for America

1989 to Present, Town of Arlington

Member, Capital Planning Committee,  with lead responsibility for Information Technology, School Dept., Library, Health & Human Services. Participant in town’s comprehensive Master Planning initiative.

2011 to Present, Town of Arlington

Member, Maintenance Committee; Drafted first Maintenance Plan and Operations guidelines.

2011 to 2013

Organizer, New England Magento Meetup, Boston;   Analyzed and compared software applications and best practices.

1974 to 1984

Assistant Director, Charlestown Working Theater, Boston.  Won funding for renovation of building, worked with City of Boston Arts administrator, assisted in running programs and operations, performed in theater productions.

Additional Training:

Facilitator leadership training.  Interaction Associates;  Kepner Tregoe