LOWELL -- Sen. Eileen Donoghue is a top-three finalist for the city manager post, along with an assistant dean at MIT and a research director from North Carolina.
The three candidates -- Donoghue of Lowell, James White of Marshfield, and Linda Millsaps of North Carolina -- will be interviewed by the City Council next Tuesday.
City Manager Kevin Murphy is retiring on April 1.
Donoghue is the favorite for the post. The state senator and former Lowell mayor was on all nine finalist ballots from the city councilors.
White and Millsaps were both on four finalist ballots from the city councilors.
White is the assistant dean of finance at the School of Science at MIT. Millsaps is the research director for the North Carolina Center for County Research.
Councilors debated Tuesday night over whether the interviews next week should even happen. Councilor Rita Mercier called the process a "charade" because it's a foregone conclusion the city will hire Donoghue, she said.
"What a waste of time," she said.
She added that it's a waste of taxpayer dollars to fly up a candidate from North Carolina for the interviews.
However, a majority of the council said the interview process is important. It's essential that the interviews go on, said Councilor Vesna Nuon.
"It's not a done deal right now," Nuon said.
Councilor Edward Kennedy also said that the other candidates should get an opportunity to present their case next week.
It would set a poor precedent if the Council picked a candidate without conducting these interviews, added Councilor Dave Conway.
"We owe it to the public," Mayor William Samaras said. "I don't consider it a sham."
The council plans to vote for the next city manager later that night on March 27.
Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.