Local governments are at the heart of implementing increasingly ambitious national plans for wind energy. While support by local governments for these plans has been studied extensively, only few studies have looked into local governments’ contestation of wind energy development. In this paper we analyze contentious governance processes in which local governments join efforts with citizen action groups to oppose projects proposed by developers or the national government. We focus on the strategic dilemmas that local governments face while engaging in contentious governance. Uncovering strategic dilemmas helps to see contestation by local governments as part of a web of governance relationships, thus moving beyond dichotomous understandings of the players involved in wind farm conflicts. Strategic dilemmas also allow understanding of how stances of local governments and their citizen allies change over time, and how strategic and tactical considerations emerge from interaction patterns.