Utah County Democrats are proud of the progress they've made over the past year, and they credit early preparation - an admittedly novel concept for them - as the key.

The Utah County Democratic Party will hold its nominating convention Saturday at American Fork High School, with delegate registration beginning at noon and the opening gavel at 1 p.m.County Democrats this election year were well ahead of their traditional last-minute schedule. The proposed platform, to be voted on Saturday, was completed two months ago. A candidate recruitment committee was beating the bushes early for Democrats to run for offices being contested in November.

Party officers wanted to avoid another embarrassment like two years ago, when Democrats could not even field candidates for offices like sheriff and county attorney, even though the elected Republican incumbents were retiring.

County Democratic Chairman Bob Stringham, who took over the local leadership last summer, is fond of quoting Will Rogers: "I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat."

But Stringham, Orem, is hoping he can mothball that quotation, at least when referring to his county organization.

"Things have changed from the past," Stringham said. "Utah County Democrats really should be applauded for their work this year. We're not a big bunch, but we're strong and we've been working together."

Stringham said the effort to improve the local party organization has paid off not only in better election-year preparation, but also in the form of a better community perception of the Democratic Party, which readily acknowledges its minority position in Utah County.

"I've been tickled with the response from the community," he said. "This year we see people, not just independents, but Republicans too, looking to the Democratic Party for the political leadership that has been lacking."

On Saturday, Stringham will turn his chairman's gavel over to former county Democratic Chairman Ken Creer, who will conduct the convention. Stringham, a candidate for the party's nomination in the 3rd District congressional race, will address delegates, as will his intraparty opponent, Craig Oliver, Taylorsville.

With only contested countywide race Saturday, delegates are expected to focus on state races. State candidates scheduled to address the convention include attorney general hopefuls Zane Gill and Paul Van Dam, gubernatorial candidate Ted Wilson and U.S. Senate candidate Brian Moss.

The public is invited to listen to candidate speeches and the keynote address by Rep. Beverly White, D-Tooele, but only elected delegates can cast ballots.

The county race Democrats could decide Saturday is for the two-year seat on the County Commission. Gene Faux, Springville, and Glen Hawkins, Benjamin, filed for the office.

If either can garner the support of 70 percent of the county convention delegates, he will be the party's nominee. Otherwise the two men will face off again in the primary election, Sept. 13.

Delegates representing Utah House of Representatives District 60 in Orem will have another vote to cast Saturday. Helen Weeks, the party's District 60 nominee in 1986, and Glen R. Zimmerman, a former Orem city councilman, have filed for that seat.