C-J Extra: Former KDOT manager now driving small Topeka church

Jim Brewer is interim pastor at First Free Will Baptist

As the former engineering manager in the Kansas Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Road Design, Topeka resident Jim Brewer worked on state projects involving interstates and highways. He’s now focused on the ministry of spiritual building as the interim pastor at First Free Will Baptist Church, a church with a 13-member congregation at 3900 S.W. Shunga Drive.


Brewer and his wife, Donna, moved to Kansas in 1967 after he completed a civil engineering degree at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and took a job with the Kansas Highway Commission, now known as KDOT. He retired Oct. 1, 2015, just short of 49 years with KDOT.

The Brewers always thought they might move back to Arkansas, but it seems God had other plans for them.

Q: What did you do at KDOT?

Brewer: We prepared plans, set the right of way, the curves, the alignment of the highway. Handle all the drainage (and) the water coming to the highway, designed plans and reviewed designs. We worked closely with others who did bridge design.

Q: What projects were you a part of over the years?

Brewer: I worked 35 years on the South Lawrence Trafficway, or K-10 highway; I-70 way out west near Colorado; and I-135. We have about 10,000 miles on the state highway system in Kansas, and I’ve probably somehow or other been involved on half of those miles.

Q: Tell me about the “green book.”

Brewer: The “green book” is the book called “A Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets” (that was) produced by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. It has a lot of guidance on roadway design. I served on the AASHTO national committee for 29 years, which included representatives from several states. I was part of the AASHTO Technical Committee on Geometric Design. We also did the interstate standards for the Federal Highway Administration.

Q: Is there anything that you miss about KDOT?

Brewer: The people … because everybody had the public interest at heart, and that’s what KDOT’s purpose was — to provide good transportation to the citizens of Kansas and people that passed through our state. If you had a need, job-related or even on a personal level, there’s people that would come to your aid and you could count on ’em.

Q: What made you want to go into the ministry?

Brewer: The scripture tells us that we all should be ministers of the gospel. There needs to be some leadership, like in any organization. In local churches, we need people to teach and preach the gospel. I think we have to, first of all, agree with God and see the need and then do what we can do about it. … When our pastor resigned and it was, “OK, who’s going to fill the pulpit?” So you kind of look around and if there’s nobody else, well, you ask for God’s guidance and strength and do what you can do. It may not be perfect, but God doesn’t ask for perfection. He wants our best and our heart’s desire.

Q: How do you keep a small church going?

Brewer: You have to feed the flock when they come. Encourage people, and invite people. People need to know about the love of Christ. Follow-up with visitors, do neighborhood canvassing, and hand out literature. We’ve seen times when we had feast and we’ve seen times of famine, as far as the number of people.

Q: What do you do in your spare time?

Brewer: We visit our children — Marcus in Texas and Amy in Nashville — a spend time with our only granddaughter, Annabelle Claire.

Contact reporter Jessica Cole at (785) 295-1628 or @Jessicagcole on Twitter.

Contact features writer Jessica Cole at (785) 295-5628.