After serving in the military, he graduated from Utica College in 1961 and headed public relations for the Wyandotte Chemical Company.
Lured into politics as a supporter of relatively progressive New York Republicans such as Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller and Senator Jacob K. Javits, he went to work for Representative Alexander Pirnie, an upstate Republican, and became his chief of staff. He later held the same position for Mr. Pirnie’s successor, Donald J. Mitchell, also a Republican.
He successfully ran for Oneida County executive and, after serving a four-year term, was elected to Congress in 1982. His district, in downtown New York, included the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, which was partly responsible for the Yankee regalia in his office, as well as Cornell University. Unlike many of his colleagues, he returned to his district every weekend.
When he announced in 2006 that he would not be re-elected, he told The Syracuse Post-Standard that he deplored the growing divisions in Washington.
“I came to Capitol Hill 42 years ago and I’ve never seen a higher level of partiality and a lower level of tolerance for the other man’s point of view,” he said.
After Mr. Boehlert’s death, Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat who is the Senate majority leader, praised him for his “rich legacy, his support for science, his commitment to combating climate change and his deep love” for his district.
Mr Boehlert married Marianne Willey in 1976. He leaves behind two children, Tracy VanHook and Leslie Wetteland, and a stepson, Mark Brooks, from his marriage to Jean Bone, which ended in divorce; a stepdaughter, Brooke Phillips, from his wife’s first marriage; and six grandchildren.