AUBURN — City councilors have made their pick for city manager, but they’re keeping the name to themselves until they begin negotiating an employment contract.

Mayor Jonathan LaBonte said councilors Thursday directed interim City Manager Don Gerrish to contact the candidates — Benjamin Marchant of Jerome, Idaho, and Clinton Deschene of Hermon, Maine — and begin negotiations with one of them.

“Our preference is to get through this process so we can have a new manager, but we don’t want to get that process rushed by anything else,” LaBonte said. “It’s been the council’s goal to have a new manager coming on by the time we finish working on the budget.”

Councilors met for 90 minutes Thursday in closed door executive session to discuss the two candidates and councilors’ impressions.

“We had a very good conversation among the group,” LaBonte said. “Now we’ll let the process continue.”

LaBonte said he expects Gerrish, a consultant from Maine-based management firm Eaton Peabody, to update councilors on negotiations at Monday’s 5:30 p.m. workshop.

Marchant was city manager for Jerome, Idaho, a city of roughly 11,000 people just north of the Utah border, for almost four years, until last October. He’s been working as a consultant since then.

Before Jerome, he’d worked as deputy chief of protocol for the mayor’s office in San Diego, Calif., an administrative intern in Hoffman Estates, Ill., and assistant to the city administrator for Maryland Heights, Mo.

Deschene is a lifelong Maine resident and current manager in Hermon, a town of 5,500 residents just east of Bangor.

Deschene graduated high school in 1991 in Presque Isle and graduated from the University of Maine in 1995. He graduated with a law degree from Suffolk in Boston in 1998 and began working for the town of Bradford in 1999. He began working in Hermon in 2002.

The city brought both men and their spouses to tour the community and meet residents — Marchant on May 1 and Deschene on May 8.

The new manager would replace Glenn Aho. The previous City Council voted to terminate Aho’s contract this past October. They voted in November to hire consultants Eaton Peabody to lead the search for Aho’s replacement and manage the city in the meantime.

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