Interview with Mayor Andrew McNally


Rachel Yuan '26

Andrew McNally, the mayor of Bernards Township, is a lawyer with a background in Economics and a former state official. A graduate of Boston College and Seton Hall Law School, Mayor McNally has experience in litigation, utility regulation, and government relations. Mayor McNally aims to serve on the Township Committee to preserve the community’s unique qualities for future generations. I had the privilege of conducting an interview with Mayor McNally on March 6th.

(For the purposes of clarity, this interview has been slightly revised. This article has been reviewed and approved by Mayor McNally and his office.)


Ziran (Rachel) Yuan (Reporter for The Devil’s Advocate): I feel like as a high schooler, I don’t really understand how the local government works. It seems like the federal government makes up most of the political reports in media outlets. So my first question is very basic. How is the mayor elected in our town? And why do all municipalities do things differently?

Mayor Andrew McNally: When it comes to electing the Mayor in Bernards Township, the process is a bit different from some other places in New Jersey. The Township Committee members are the ones who elect the mayor. You see, there are over 500 municipalities in our state, with a wide range of sizes and structures. This complexity can understandably make it difficult for people to grasp the inner workings of their local government. Also, New Jersey is a home rule state, meaning local municipalities have the autonomy to govern as much as they can. This leads to different municipalities having their own way of doing things. For example, in Bridgewater, the Mayor is elected for a four-year term and they operate under a strong mayor, weak council system. This means that the mayor has significant authority while the council has less influence. In contrast, Bernardsville has a weak mayor, strong council system, where the Mayor’s power is more limited and they can only vote in the event of a tie. Sometimes municipalities even split into smaller ones based on their specific needs and desires, like how Bernards Township and Bernardsville used to be one.

ZY: What does your daily life as a mayor look like? 

Mayor McNally: As the Mayor, my day-to-day life is an interesting mix of balancing my regular job and fulfilling my mayoral responsibilities. It’s not a full-time job, but it does require a significant time commitment. I attend various meetings with commissions and individuals, preside over meetings, and set agendas – all while squeezing it in whenever possible around my day job.

ZY: There are many responsibilities of being a mayor. What is the most difficult part? And what is the part that you like best? 

Mayor McNally: The most challenging aspect of being Mayor, I’d say, is ensuring public safety. While Bernards Township is an extremely safe community, ranking 8th in the US, we still have concerns about issues like auto thefts and incidents involving firearms. In terms of what our local government is doing to help, we’re actively working on making sure our police, fire, and rescue departments have the necessary equipment and support they need to keep our community safe.

The best part of my job is marrying people as an officiant.  There’s something truly special about being able to help couples begin their new lives together and witness the love they share. More seriously, though, having the opportunity to make a positive impact on our community is wonderful. Knowing that I can make a difference in the lives of our residents brings a great sense of fulfillment.

ZY: You have a lot of experience in community roles, including serving in the state government. What made you decide to participate in the public sphere?

Mayor McNally: While a lot of leaders tell people that they had wanted to serve in public service since they were young, for me it wasn’t like that. My journey into public service wasn’t something I had planned from a young age. As a lawyer by trade, I never really envisioned myself in public service. It was only when I started working with someone who became involved in state government that I got a taste of it. After leaving the governor’s office, I found myself drawn to become more involved on a local level.

ZY: On your website, in one claim you state that you oppose “overdevelopment” because it “threatens the quality-of-life Bernards enjoys.” Can you explain that claim a little bit?

Mayor McNally: Overdevelopment can indeed be a problem when it becomes out of sync with the characteristics and capabilities of our community. For example, if roads can’t handle the increased traffic, utilities can’t provide for the whole population, or schools can’t accommodate the influx of students, then overdevelopment can negatively impact our town. As residents, you can voice your concerns in committee meetings and board meetings. The Planning and Zoning Boards are the primary boards handling development, and during these meetings, residents have the right to address everyone for 5 minutes on any topic of their choice. By participating in these meetings, you can help ensure that development and other aspects align with the needs and values of our community.

ZY: Asian-Americans are actually the biggest minority group in Bernards Township with more than 20% of the population being of Asian descent. During the pandemic there was a large spike in anti-Asian hate. As a member of the Asian-American community, I was wondering if you had any words for the Asian-American community in our town? 

Mayor McNally: I want our Asian American community to know that Bernards Township is incredibly proud of their contributions. We have absolutely no tolerance for hate or violence directed towards anyone. Our community thrives on celebrating our different cultures, and initiatives like Fabric of Bernards, as well as events such as Lunar New Year celebrations, are a testament to our commitment to inclusivity and appreciation of diversity.

ZY: Last Question. Mayor McNally, what’s your advice for students who want to be involved in public service?

Mayor McNally: There are several ways students can get involved in public life. First, they can volunteer with nonprofit organizations that support our community or are based within our town. Next, students can seek internships with the government or other organizations, gaining valuable experience and insights into the workings of public service. Finally, I encourage students to stay engaged in the community and learn more about civic engagement, which will serve them well as they grow up, vote, run for office, or become involved in other ways.